I have no problem with check outs.
What I have a problem with are instructors that have been conditioned to think or approach things as they were taught and are inflexible to allow any other way of doing things into the cockpit. I have now adopted the approach before I get into a plane with an instructor and that is to establish what their expectations are. If their approach is at odds with my approach I then give them options. 1) I will fly the way they want but will never fly like that again 2) let me fly as I usually fly and judge for yourself if I am safe 3) Nice to meet you but no thanks, can I try another instructor that is_ strict_ BUT capable of recognising that when a pilot has been flying for 20-30 years the pilot may do things differently BUT not in an un-safe manner.
I am now blessed with a few instructors I can go to when I need help or a check out and they don’t patronise, another major irritation of mine.
Yes Bloomer, I tend toward the same approach. More and more, as I start to simply look old, that approach seems to work better with young instructors.
I find that some of the test flying I do must (usually for insurance reasons) carry a second pilot. Problem is that to do my job properly, I have to get close to some limitations of the aircraft. I have learned the benefit of a very through preflight briefing. Generally now, my briefings last 45 minutes to an hour, and cover EVERYTHING, before we fly. By the time I have finished the briefing, I can usually tell by their reaction if they should even be aboard for the flying.
I nearly had a second pilot replaced on one program, but he came back on line with the program. Then I had to explain to him that I was going to repeatedly spin "his" Cessna Grand Caravan with a large external load attached. We got through it, and I had him do a few for his own sense of accomplishment.
During a flight test on a club 172 to confirm its airworthiness, the instructor that they sent along with me asked if I would demonstrate a roll. I declined. I thought he was setting me up - no, he just had never exprienced a roll, and figured I could do one. I explained the many reasons I would not be doing that. I felt badly for him, as he had never had that experience, and should have. We all should!
No problem at all with checkouts. With regards the currency (1 month, 6 weeks, etc.) that flying clubs require: their toys = their rules.
I've never experienced it myself, but have heard stories of some young instructors going above and beyond anything that's really required. Chap a few days out of club currency, otherwise a regular flyer and well-known to all, books a checkout prior to an afternoon trip, expects a few circuits. Gets new young instructor and is subjected to a full 1hr+ flight with PFLs, stalls, steep turns, bad weather circuits, the works. Costs £200+ and puts paid to the plans for the afternoon.
I have only recently lost club currency for the first time (since I bought my share), so I look forward to my first checkout if I need to rent one of their planes again. It'll be a fun opportunity to fly with an instructor that I might not otherwise fly with.
The need for checkout on new types and recurrent training surely depends on the aircraft type in relation to the pilots overall background and experience. If I fly a new type or if I haven't flown for a while due to some aircraft project, I know well that I'm better off with some dual. I am pleasantly surprised if it goes well and in retrospect seems unnecessary. For me (with a few hundred hours) being particularly methodical reduces the number of unexpected items I'll have to deal simultaneously, and that is part of my own risk management. I'm also lucky in that I don't often pay for instruction, and I've arranged that flying the aircraft costs only money for fuel, both positive risk factors in my mind when it comes to recurrent training.
On the other hand, when I bought my most recent aircraft (an uncommon SE type), it had not been flown much for several years and nobody was available who had flown one. A friend who has flown everything and who is a current unlimited class aerobatic competitor flew it first, with me in the right seat. There were no problems, he pronounced the aircraft handling conventional and likely OK for my level of experience, and his first and only landing in the aircraft was as good as any I have managed in the subsequent two years. For him it was child's play. After that I flew left seat with a 12K hr instructor friend in the right, both of us having discussed the aircraft with pilot #1.
That methodology seemed to work OK, and it got me my instructor sign-off for the insurance - the policy required a 1 hr certificated instructor checkout for me, but none for any other pilot I allow to fly the plane. No differences training is legally required.
Responding more directly to the original topic, I wouldn't fly if I couldn't manage my own risk, but there's no conflict with safety in doing so.
A checkout can be required by differing people/entities for differing reasons. One of the best reasons is that the pilot would like to be checked out. One of the worst reasons is that the flying club/school wants to generate revenue. Then there are the reasons in between. Insurers often want a record of a checkout for a newly insured pilot. My experience has been that this can be presented as another known competent pilot writing a letter - I have done some, and declined to do some on a few rare occasions. I suppose in such a case, it is simply due diligence on the insurer's side. I would have to agree that it's better than the agent just taking someone's word for their competence.
That said, for certified aircraft in a given class, they are all certified to a similar standard, which virtually assures that their flying qualities have been demonstrated to be within a range of "not requiring unusual pilot skill or attention". This is meant so that a competent pilot, who has read and understands the flight manual, and has experience on that configuration aircraft, should be safely able to cautiously self check out. This is not ideal, as sharing of skill and experience as always better, but the self checkout under the foregoing circumstances should be adequately safe, if the conditions are not challenging. That "new" pilot should then diligently go through a self checkout, not just bound off into the sly on a mission...
That does not take away from the very good judgement of a pilot who asks for a checkout, I do from time to time, as that can do nothing but improve safety. When I fly with another pilot who is with me in an oversight or checkout role I always invite comment on any aspect of my flying, not just the type conversion.
When I check pilots out in new types, I generally find that from the beginning, they are basically safe, in gentle conditions, and without emergencies. Left on their own, they probably would have been fine, if not pushed or challenged. This means to me that these pilots have greater skill than they realize, and that's a nice way to be. We all benefit from emergencies practice, and broadening the basis of abnormal procedure decision making.
Then the checkout can move to the techniques, and nice to haves. These generally center on giving the passengers a smooth ride, and prolonging the longevity of the aircraft. Neither of these is a safety issue.
So the aformentioned surprise hour with an instructor after 31 days of not flying the rental plane seems extreme. If, in the first few minutes of the checkout the candidate pilot demonstrated some poor skills, then yes more time dual. Other than that, a rental pilot, who was not planning on having his or her hour booked wholly taken up by the checkout, will fairly be in a poor frame of mind, when that seems to be the way things are going.
I think it is fair for the candidate pilot to participate in a ten minute pre briefing with the check pilot, as to the scope and objectives of that checkout. The check pilot may put some "ifs" in there; "if your performance is X, I may ask for a repeat, or we may spend some time". But honestly, if the renter shows up for the booked hour of touring, expecting only a circuit check, either a circuit check should be enough to confirm that pilot's competence for that day's flying, or there should be an explanation as to why a comprehensive check flight is deemed necessary. If the check pilot cannot formulate the appropriate preflight briefing, they should not fly the flight - they have not thought it through well enough, and they should not be making it up as they go along, on the candidate's hourly rental.
On the other hand, it's up to all pilots to dedicate some of their flying to their skill development, and currency. It is not acceptable for a pilot to declare that they have their license now, and they will just tour with passengers - each pilot must wring themselves out from time to time.
My opinion is that a pilot who keeps themself current and competent, will breeze through a checkout in one or two circuits with an objective instructor. My experience has always been that checkouts I received were more brief than I expected, and from time to time, I asked the check pilot for more!
Start, taxi, takeoff, one circuit and landing should be all an instructor needs to see. However from personal experience the amount of skill fade I regularly see in PPL's is frightening........
Why is that all an instructor needs to see?
If I'm flying as an instructor for a checkout, I'm a representative of the aircraft owner, who has tasked me with ensuring that the pilot has enough flying ability and maturity that they can trust them with this expensive asset unsupervised. Sometimes I can do that in a single circuit, but very often I can't, and do need to include a bit of remedial instruction, familiarisation with local procedures, familiarisation with the aircraft...
It is rarely possible to do what's needed in a single circuit with most pilots.
I have 2000 + hrs of instructing in GA aircraft which certainly helps. For the 30 day type checks, If the person being checked can fly a well flown circuit, ie takeoff straight down the centerline, rotate straight to the climb attitude, ball in the center, accurate altitude control on down wind, square corner from base to final, on speed final with good flight path control and a reasonable smooth tail low touchdown, then there is little point in doing anymore checking.
However as is more likely you will see some significant issues in basic aircraft control. This is where for an instructor life gets difficult as you get to the whole how good is "good enough" question. If I see some dodgy aircraft control then the student gets the option. Shut her down now or we go in and brief a proper training flight with exercises to specifically address the skill deficits I see.
I agree BPF, and although I'm a far less experienced instructor than you, that is broadly my approach also.
Currency check on a pilot who has done a reasonable amount of flying and knows the aicraft and airfield should be trivial, a checkout I always start by quizzing them on their understanding of the aeroplane, preparation for the flight and local procedures. That usually gives me a pretty good idea of whether I can do a circuit or two, or take it out of the circuit for a bit more, or prepare for a significant lump of instruction. To date, my judgment has generally been about right.
But repeating a point - the aircraft owner has every right to decide what standard of pilot they want flying their machine, and I always will discuss that with them before doing any checkout. Also the OP's question was about checkouts, not currency checks.
My posts was meant to answer Graham at post #13. As stated a currency check should IMO end after one circuit with the plane returning to parking. At that point either the pilot gets the thumbs up or a significant skill problem is noted. In the case of problems with the flying a debrief of the flight with an outline of what training is required should be carried out.
When I worked as a full time instructor I found that around 50% of the time those pilots doing a currency check did not meet the standard and needed extra training. The good news for me is that eventually all the marginal pilots avoided flying with me and I ended up with the good pilots.
I think it is important that a skills check should not bleed over into an unbriefed training flight. Obviously in the course of the circuit the instructor may give a few bits of advice but the basic competence has to be there. It it is not then the skill deficits need to be formally addressed.
On the hand checks outs for a new type and/or for someone new to the area are training flights and should be briefed and flown as such. The difference is basic flying skills and knowledge are assumed. If they do not exist to a sufficiently high level then it is no longer a checkout but should revert to general skills training either by the same instructor or by someone else. An example of this would be a type check in a tailwheel airplane where the person being checked has poor tailwheel handling skills.